Joe Quesada (1962 -) is an american comic-book artist and writer before becoming an editor. He worked for DC on titles such as Batman : Sword of Azrael (1992-1993) and Marvel on X-Factor (1992-1993) and Daredevil (1998-2003). In 2000, Joe Quesada became editor-in-chief of Marvel comics, and kept drawing and directing new titles like the Ultimate. His work on Spider-Man : One More Day (2007-2008), with the author J. Michael Straczynski as been very controversial, especially because of the retcon of Peter Parker’s and Mary-Jane’s marriage. He left his post in 2011, leaving Alex Alonso in charge, who’s still the editor-in-chief of Marvel comics.
During the Civil War crossover (2006-2007), driven by Iron-Man who was the instigator of the Superhuman Registration Act, Spider-Man revealed his secret identity as Peter Parker to the world. Unfortunately, he soon realized he was on the wrong side of this war, and after he rejoined Captain America’s side his all family had to leave the Stark Tower to find a hidden refuge. After the end of the war and the victory of Iron-Man’s troops, the Kingpin hired a sniper to shot Peter Parker and end Spider-Man. Unfortunately for Peter, the bullet didn’t find his target but reached May Parker, Peter’s aunt.
Between life and death, May is in a deep coma. Peter, guilty as hell, tries everything to save her, he even confronts Iron-Man, his former paternal figure. Trapped inside Spider-Man’s out of control web, Tony Stark is facing a wrathful Peter Parker. He even got his helmet ripped of his face by Peter, whose super strength is tenfold by his anger. He can’t hear Tony’s apologies anymore, because they doesn’t mean anything and can’t save May. Maybe for the first time, Peter punched Tony in the stomach while he’s imprisoned in his web, which is not very hero-like. But even his web is different : it looks more like a coarse rope than a delicate spiderweb. Desperate times call for desperate measures, even if it means threaten the new director of SHIELD.
After he had tried everything on Earth, Peter had no choice but to turn on the Supreme Sorcerer, Dr. Strange, to find an answer to his prayers in magic rather than science. Thanks to the Hands of the Dead, Stephen Strange is able to duplicate Spider-Man and send him visit anyone on Earth capable of helping him, both villains and heroes, like Beast, Black Panther, Dr. Doom, Reed Richards or Dr. Octopus. The multiplication of the Spider-Men is remarkable, but they’re the decorative patterns which are really outstanding. This double-page spread allows us to understand how desperate Peter is. If he was already crazed after the confrontation with Iron-Man, he’s gone insane now for searching for help to his enemies. But, unable to or unwilling to, everyone refuses to help him. Exhausted and overwhelmed by the pain and his uselessness, he collapsed at the feet of Dr. Strange. With his cape so majestic and his elongated body and little head, he looks like Uatu the Guardian. He’s surely as sorry as Peter for his unsuccessful quest, because he must have appreciated May.
Despite the warning of Dr. Strange, Spider-Man used the Hands of the Dead himself to be sent on the day May got shot. But he was present as a ghost, and couldn’t interact with his environment. Thus he witnessed one more time the shooting, one more time helpless. Even hidden behind his mask, his pain is visible, just as his face distorted by the cry of pain. But Peter isn’t as innocent as he though he is : he jumped at Mary Jane to protect her, while May was in front of the window. Because he saved his wife, his aunt’s life is now in jeopardy.
Such situation attracts the most twisted characters of the Marvel universe, and this time it’s Mephisto himself who’s drawn. He introduces himself as the savior of this unfortunate situation, promising to save May’s life. The first panel in particular is well-designed. Mephisto’s body doesn’t appear in its entirety, but rather like if it was lighted with a candle. His body extracts itself from the darkness where it come from. As a demon, he’s different from the common human, thus his body appears different as well. The second panel, and the two following ones, are maybe as interesting as the first. First disgusted by Mephisto’s proposal, Peter turned his head. He’s desperate to save his aunt, but not to the point of making a deal with the demon. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have a choice, and soon looks interested in Mephisto’s offer. At this point, Mephisto knows he has won, as his winning smile suggests it. But he’s game, and he’s willing to let Peter talk about it with Mary-Jane : after all, what are twenty-four hours in the life of a demon ?
Mephisto’s deal is clear : in exchange for May’s life, he wants Peter’s and Mary-Jane’s marriage, because their pure love is the rarest form of love that exists and he wants it. By erasing their marriage from their memories (and everyone else’s), he tears apart two soulmates whose souls will cry in silence for being apart. Both of them know that this is the craziest thing to do, but it’s also their last and only option. They have to sacrifice their happiness and their marriage to save May. Joe Quesada took his time to tell us this story, and offered us many pages of silent goodbyes, such as this one. In each other’s arms they’re about to kiss, but don’t. These six identical panels represents a stopped kiss, the eternal kiss of star-crossed lovers. They have all the time they need to finally kiss, because their last kiss will seal their deal with the devil. This is without a doubt the most touching page of all the arc. Joe Quesada did like Andy Warhol and his celebrities’ portraits like Marylin (Marilyn Diptych, 1962, London, Tate Gallery) or Elizabeth Taylor (Ten Lizes, 1963, Paris, Centre Pompidou), this time with comic-books celebrities.
Mary-Jane is willing to sacrifice her marriage with Peter to save May, but she has something else to add, which is a secret between her and Mephisto. In order to change Peter’s live completely, Mary-Jane made a secret deal with the devil (secret that remains unknown until 2010 and One Moment in Time) : in exchange for Peter’s identity secret again and Mephisto never intervenes in their lives, she will persuade Peter this is the right thing to do. Mary-Jane is the true hero of this story : she’s ready to sacrifice her happiness to save his husband’s aunt. This is even better than Mephisto would have plan. MJ’s face on the second panel when she whispers at Mephisto is entirely black, which contrasts with the drop of light that is her tear. Like a pearl of sadness sinks in the darkness of oblivion.
Sadly the time to say goodbye has come. The deal is sealed, their life will be for ever different. In each other’s arms, they kisses one last time, one more time, before oblivion. This time their kiss will not protect them for what’s coming.
Mephisto kept his promises : Peter’s secret identity is a secret again, aunt May is alive and he’s still living with her. But a few surprises are back with Peter’s new life, like Harry Osborn. Mephisto’s spell has resurrected him, and he brings along new friends and enemies. It’s only in One Moment in Time (Amazing Spider-Man #638-641), published in 2010 than we have learned what Mary-Jane has whispered to Mephisto. And it’s once again Joe Quesada who drew the four issues of Amazing Spider-Man which concludes his story. He reuses some pages, like the one with the six identical panel of the kiss, and many more, but changes its meaning. Mephisto doesn’t appear to save May or hide Spider-Man’s secret identity. It’s Dr. Strange who saved May, and with the help of Reed Richards and Tony Stark, he decided the best thing to do was to hide Peter’s identity one again. Mary-Jane’s secret whisper to Mephisto is a bit disappointing, even if it provides Mephisto to ever interfere in Peter’s life again. In my mind, the best thing to do would have been for Mary-Jane and Peter to get back together, despite Mephisto’s plan, which would have proven that they actually were star-crossed lovers.